The USC Trojans opened the football season with a convincing 55-6 victory over the Arkansas State Red Wolves on Saturday night at the Coliseum.
Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler completed 19 of 26 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns, including three in the first half, to lead the Trojans, who had a 28-0 lead at halftime.
Tre Madden, who missed all of last season because of a foot injury, rushed for 106 yards in 12 carries and scored on a 65-yard run in the second quarter.
The Trojans passed for 320 yards and rushed for 189 to finish with 509 yards of offense. Backup quarterback Max Browne completed three of five passes for 66 yards. Ronald Jones III added 86 yards rushing and had a touchdown in six carries.
The Red Wolves gained 402 yards, rushing for 209, but they turned the ball over four times.
Here’s a recap of the possesions in the game:
Arkansas State starts at its own 34-yard line for likely its final, or second-to-last, possession.
After two short runs, Cameron Brise completes a nine-yard pass to Warren Wand for a first down.
After Wand runs for no gain and Logan Moragne picks up five, a short pass from Brise to Dijon Paschal for three yards leaves the Red Wolves with a fourth-and-two play at the USC 45.
Moragne is stuffed for no gain on fourth down, and USC will ice the game with 17 seconds left.
USC 55, Arkansas State 6 -- 4:16 left in the fourth quarter.
USC will start on its own 37-yard line.
Max Browne hands off to Aca’Cedric Ware. Ware is another freshman from Cedar Hill, Texas.
Browne completes a 28-yard pass to De’Quan Hampton.
Ware rushes nine yards. USC has used all of its available scholarship tailbacks tonight.
Ware keeps his legs moving to pick up five yards and a first down.
Another Ware carry and a Arkansas State penalty moves the ball to the 10-yard line.
Browne throws to the end zone, looking for Jalen Greene, but the pass falls incomplete.
Third and six, Ware rushes for his first USC touchdown.
Score this game as USC taking care of business.
Arkansas State will start at its own 25-yard line.
With a 42-point lead, we’ll see how engaged USC’s defense is for the remainder of the game.
Quarterback James Tabary completes a 13-, 6- and 13-yard pass to keep this drive moving.
Freshmen Marvell Tell III and Iman Marshall have combined to make a couple of nice hits and Marshall breaks up a could-be touchdown reception.
Fourth and eight, Arkansas State turns it over on downs.
USC 48, Arkansas State 6 -- 10-19 left in the fourth quarter
Arkansas State will start from its own 14-yard line.
James Tabary hands off to Michael Gordon, who is dropped after a yard by Porter Gustin.
Tabary completes a 13-yard pass in front of Matt Lopes.
Freshman Rasheem Green was not medically cleared to play until game week. He’s in now and made a tackle.
Arkansas State throws a backwards pass that Osa Masina picks up and returns for a touchdown. Masina was another highly-touted recruit that the Trojans picked up out of Utah.
Alex Wood’s point after is blocked.
Arkansas State will go for it on fourth and six on USC’s eight-yard line and James Tabary is tackled by Cameron Smith.
USC takes over on downs at their own five-yard line.
Max Browne is in at quarterback for USC and completes a short pass to Dominic Davis, who turns it into a 35-yard gain.
Davis rushes for two yards and a pass falls incomplete to De’Quan Hampton.
Arkansas State will start at its own 24-yard line.
The Red Wolves have swtiched quarterbacks, putting in backup James Tabary.
Tabary completes a 40-yard pass to put his team on the Trojans’ 23-yard line.
Tabary completes an 11-yard pass to Michael Gordon who picks up a first down after evading a tackle from Scott Felix.
Chris Hawkins with nice coverage in the end zone to breakup a would-be touchdown pass.
Third and seven at the nine-yard line, Cameron Smith stuffs Warren Wand.
That’s the end of the third.
USC 42, Arkansas State 6 -- 3:38 left in the third quarter
USC will start from its own 30-yard line.
Ronald Jones rushes for seven yards.
Jalen Greene catches a 12-yard pass from Kessler. Greene has made a nice transition from quarterback to receiver this fall.
Freshman Ronald Jones scores his first USC touchdown on a 44-yard carry. He blew by the entire defense.
Alex Wood’s extra point is good.
This is getting out of hand and fans are filing out of the Coliseum.
Arkansas State will start at its own 25-yard line.
Again, it’s USC’s linebackers making all the stops. Uchenna Nwosu and Porter Gustin on this drive.
Gustin was a highly-touted recruit from Salem Hills, Utah. He is expected to make big contributions this season.
Arkansas State will punt.
USC 35, Arkansas State 6 -- 6:21 left in the third quarter.
Arkansas State will start at its own 20-yard line.
USC’s linebackers are making some nice stops -- Su’a Cravens on first down and Osa Masina on second down. However, Knighten picks up two yards to convert on third down.
Cravens intercepts a tipped pass and returns it to the Arkansas State five-yard line. He almost had a pick six.
Kessler completes an eight-yard pass to a wide-open Tre Madden for a touchdown.
Alex Wood’s extra point is blocked and Arkansas State returns it for two, but there are four flags on the field.
The defense was called offsides, USC tries the point after again -- and this time, it’s good.
Arkansas State will start at its own 48-yard line.
Fredi Knighten’s first-down pass falls incomplete.
Jabari Ruffin forces Michael Gordon to fumble and Chris Hawkins recovers. Hawkins, who moved from cornerback to safety during spring practice, now has an interception and a fumble recovery. Hawkins has freshmen competition behind him, Marvell Tell III and Ykili Ross, and has stepped up his level of play.
USC takes over on their own 45-yard line.
Coach Steve Sarkisian said Tre Madden would be the workhorse of the game. That he has been. Madden has rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown in 11 carries.
Kessler completes a five-yard pass to Steven Mitchell, Jr. and then has a pass fall incomplete to Christian Tober.
USC is unable to capitalize on the turnover and punts.
Dominic Davis drops the kickoff and USC will start from its own two-yard line.
Cody Kessler, from the end zone, completes a 13-yard pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Kessler hands off to Tre Madden who gains a yard.
Kessler completes a two-yard pass to Smith-Schuster, who fights for an extra yard. Smith-Schuster is a physical receiver. It was a great match up to watch him and Iman Marshall go toe-to-toe during training camp.
Kessler tries to go down field again, this time to Smith-Schuster but it falls incomplete. The timing between Kessler and his receivers looks off on the deep throws.
USC 28, Arkansas State 6 -- 13:00 left in the third quarter
ESPN radio is reporting that Coach Steve Sarkisian said Adoree’ Jackson has a hip flexor and will be sidelined for the rest of the game.
Arkansas State will start at its own 22-yard line.
Fredi Knighten completes a 41-yard pass to Tres Houston.
The Red Wolves try some trickeration on second down before throwing it away.
Third and five, Cameron Smith makes it into the backfield to pressure Knighten who evades Smith and is eventually forced out of bounds by Kevon Seymour -- but not before he gains a first down.
USC’s defense almost makes a wholesale change on second down, with exception of the safeties.
Michael Gordon rushes 17 yards before he is tackled by Smith.
First and goal, Gordon rushes nine yards for a touchdown.
Arkansas State attempts a two-point conversion, which fails miserably.
USC 28, Arkansas State 0 -- halftime
USC will start on its own 27-yard line.
Cody Kessler completes a five-yard pass to freshman tight end Tyler Petite, his first career reception.
Kessler is sacked for a fifth time in the first half. That’s certainly a number that jumps off the page.
That’s the half.
Arkansas State will start on its own 19-yard line.
Coach Steve Sarkisian is deploying a handful of freshmen in the opener -- defensive lineman Noah Jefferson made a tackle, followed by linebacker Cameron Smith.
Fredi Knighten rushes for nine yards to pick up a first down. He has rushed for 45 yards in 10 carries.
Knighten tries to go with his legs again, but Iman Marshall and Scott Felix stop him short of a first down.
Fourth down -- Knighten’s pass falls incomplete.
USC takes over on downs.
USC 28, Arkansas State 0 -- 4:32 left in the second quarter
USC will start from its own 32-yard line.
Ronald Jones rushes for seven yards.
Cody Kessler completes a 10-yard pass to De’Quan Hampton, a transfer from Long Beach City College.
Jones rushes for 15 yards. Jones dealt with a bout of homesickness during training camp, but otherwise looked like a great addition at the position.
Kessler completes a 13-yard pass to Jalen Greene, who moved from quarterback to receiver this fall.
Jalen Greene completes an 18-yard pass to freshman tailback Dominic Davis, to take USC to the five-yard line.
Tight end Taylor McNamara catches a two-yard pass from Kessler. McNamara is the eighth player to catch a pass from Kessler.
Alex Wood’s point after is good.
USC leads 28-0.
USC tailback Tre Madden has rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown in nine carries. Not bad for a guy who was sidelined last year.
Arkansas State will start at its own 23-yard line.
Fredi Knighten picks up a yard before he is tackled by Scott Felix. Felix is a fourth-year junior who earned his way into the starting role this season.
Knighten completes a first-down pass to keep the drive going.
Freshman Iman Marshall was one of the most physical players during training camp and just put his physicality on display with a quarterback hit.
Arkansas State will punt again. Christian Tober calls for the fair catch.
USC 21, Arkansas State 0 -- 9:26 left in the second quarter
USC will start at its own 35-yard line.
And that was quick!
Tre Madden rushes 65 yards for a touchdown. That’s a career long for Madden, who was sidelined last season because of a foot injury. He hasn’t missed a step tonight.
Alex Wood’s point after is good.
USC leads 21-0.
Steven Mitchell and Adoree’ Jackson are being checked out by trainers on the sideline. Those are two playmakers USC’s offense needs.
Arkansas State will start on its own 35-yard line.
Kenny Bigelow, Jr. puts the pressure on Fredi Knighten again. Bigelow was a highly-touted recruit from Maryland who was sidelined last season and redshirted in 2013.
Another three and out and the Red Wolves punt.
USC will start at its own 14-yard line.
Tre Madden rushes for three yards.
And Cody Kessler is sacked, again -- that’s the fourth time -- and not something you’d expect to see with returning starters.
Kessler’s pass to Christian Tober, a walk-on who was awarded a scholarship this week, falls incomplete.
Arkansas State will start on its own 25-yard line.
Quarterback Fredi Knighten keeps the ball for an eight-yard gain. USC’s defense so far has been unable to contain the mobile quarterback.
Knighten completes a 14-yard pass in front of Chris Hawkins.
John Plattenburg was listed as a backup on USC’s game-week depth chart but started at safety. Arkansas State attempts to run a reverse, but a stutter step allows Plattenburg to make a tackle in the backfield.
Arkansas State is forced to punt.
USC 14, Arkansas State 0 -- end of the first quarter
USC will start from Arkansas State’s 47-yard line.
Cody Kessler completes a five-yard pass to Steven Mitchell, Jr and Tre Madden rushes for three yards.
Third and two, Kessler hands off to Madden again and he is stopped short of the first down.
Fourth and two -- offensive coordinator Clay Helton elects to go for it and Madden is stopped short again. Coach Steve Sarkisian might have chimed in and told Helton to go for it. Sarkisian said he would give play-calling input on third down and in red zone situations.
Arkansas State takes over on downs and will start on its own 38-yard line.
Quarterback Fredi Knighten keeps the ball for a 19-yard gain -- it was freshman safety Marvell Tell III who finally forced him out of bounds.
Knighten keeps the ball again for a nine-yard gain. USC has historically had a hard time containing mobile quarterbacks. If your Arkansas State, don’t you start running your quarterback until he is finally stopped?
Chris Hawkins intercepts Knighten on the next play and returns it 20 yards. Hawkins moved from cornerback to safety during spring practice.
USC will start at its own 15-yard line after Antwaun Woods commits a personal foul.
Cody Kessler is sacked on first down and let’s someone on the offense know he isn’t happy about it.
Kessler rebounds, completing a 13-yard pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster and a nine-yard pass to Darreus Rogers.
Freshmen Ronald Jones, from McKinney, Texas, gets his first carries as a Trojan, rushing for five and seven yards.
Kessler attempts a deep pass to Mitchell, but it falls incomplete and Kessler is sacked for the third time on the next play. USC punts.
Arkansas State starts on its own 16 yard line.
USC freshmen are getting plenty of action, linebacker Osa Masina makes his first career sack as Arkansas State goes three and out again.
Adoree’ Jackson returns the punt 31 yards.
Kessler is under pressure more pressure than he shoudl be tonight. He avoids a sack and completes a nice 31-yard pass to Isaac Whitney, a transfer from Riverside City College.
Kessler follows with a 14-yard completion to Mitchell for a touchdown.
USC takes a 14-0 lead.
Arkansas State will start at their own nine-yard line.
Freshman linebacker Cameron Smith nearly intercepts a pass and then Kenny Bigelow, Jr. sacks quarterback Fredi Knighten to back the Red Wolves up to their own three-yard line.
Bigelow was sidelined last season because of a knee injury.
Arkansas State punts.
USC forced a three-and-out on defense. Freshman Cameron Smith started at middle linebacker, becoming the first true freshman to start an opener at inside linebacker since Riki Gray (Ellison) in 1978.
USC will start on its own seven-yard line.
Cody Kessler completes a four-yard pass to Steven Mitchell, then hands off to Tre Madden who gains a first down.
JuJu Smith draws a holding call for an automatic first down and Kessler hands off again to Madden who rushes for 23 yards. Madden was sidelined last season because of a foot injury but looks back to his 2013 form.
Kessler overthrows Mitchell down field before taking a sack, forcing USC to punt for the first time.
Kessler is three-of-five for 80 yards and a touchdown. Madden has rushed for 31 yards in four carries.
USC 7, Arkansas State 0 -- 13:46 left in the first quarter
Adoree’ Jackson returns the opening kickoff 23 yards and USC will start on its own 23-yard line. Cody Kessler’s first pass is a 15-yard completion to Darreus Rogers, followed by a one-yard carry by Tre Madden.
On third and nine, Kessler finds JuJu Smith-Schuster who sheds a couple of tackles for a 61-yard touchdown -- the longest of his career.
Alex Wood’s point after is good and USC takes a quick 7-0 lead.
A sizeable crowd has filled the Coliseum as the Trojans are led out of the tunnel by former USC All-American linebacker Keith Rivers.
USC wins the toss and will receive.
The 2015 season begins now.
USC’s announced starters on offense: Quarterback Cody Kessler, receivers Darreus Rogers, Steven Mitchell and JuJu Smith-Schuster, tailback Tre Madden, fullback Jahleel Pinner, tight end Taylor McNamara and offensive linemen Zach Banner, Toa Lobendahn, Max Tuerk, Damien Mama and Chad Wheeler.
On defense: Linebackers Su’a Cravens, Scott Felix, Anthony Sarao and Cameron Smith, cornerbacks Kevon Seymour and Adoree’ Jackson, safeties Chris Hawkins and John Plattenburg, defensive linemen Delvon Simmons, Antwaun Woods and Greg Townsend, Jr.
The sun is setting over the Coliseum and there’s about an hour until USC kicks off the season against Arkansas State of the Sun Belt Conference.
Expectations are high for the Trojans, who are ranked eighth in the Associated Press media poll and were picked to win the Pac-12 Conference in another preseason media poll.
USC returns 16 starters -- eight on offense, seven on defense and its punter.
Quarterback Cody Kessler is an early favorite for the Heisman Trophy and cornerback-receiver-returner Adoree’ Jackson is one of the most exciting players in college football.
Coach Steve Sarkisian has relinquished play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Clay Helton in an effort to become more of a game manager. Helton called plays in 2013 after coach Lane Kiffin was fired and the Trojans finished 10-4.
Trojans defensive lineman Claude Pelon, linebacker Lamar Dawson, tailback Justin Davis and safety Ykili Ross will be sidelined because of injury.